TV Recap: Game of Thrones, ‘High Sparrow’

Game of Thrones Season 5 Poster.

High Sparrow Plot Summary:

As Tommen (Dean Charles Chapman) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) wed, a seething Cersei (Lena Headey) deals with her rapidly dwindling power. Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) makes his secret plans known to Sansa (Sophie Turner). Jon (Kit Harington) makes his first decisions as the new Lord Commander, but is still torn on what Stannis (Stephen Dillane) requests. Arya (Maisie Williams) begins her path to become a Faceless Man. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) encounters an unexpected roadblock on his way to Mereen.

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO

This current season of Game of Thrones is already shaping up to be something completely different. Over the past several years, this sweeping narrative has taken great strides to keeping characters apart. It even teases us with moments like Arya reaching the Twins only to have Robb and Catelyn get brutally murdered, or Jon being right next to Bran. Truly, one of Thrones’ greatest difficulties is trying to fit in so many diverse narratives within a single episode. Narratives that, frequently, will have minimal bearing on everything else. So imagine my surprise when “High Sparrow” effortlessly turns one entire region into a political theater that weaves multiple characters into one general, and intimately connected, story.

I’m very excited for what is currently going on in the North. Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) planned marriage to Sansa is such a perfect blend of new and old material by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Book readers will recall this happening in a very similar manner on paper, but that was with someone who was definitely not Sansa. Sansa was off learning how to live in the Eyrie. The show’s version of Sansa is already privy to this game and, despite her fervent insistence to not marry Ramsay, is swayed by Baelish’s promise that this can give her power. It makes perfect sense to do this as well. Why bother introducing even more characters for us to care about when you have someone already perfectly primed who isn’t doing much else? Not only that, it’s putting the Stark family back into everyone else’s story instead of keeping them so separated like in the books. Even Theon/Reek (Alfie Allen) knows about Sansa now!

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO

Putting Sansa together with the Bolton storyline also puts Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) on a path that is much more interesting than aimlessly searching for the Stark children. I loved Brienne reuniting with Sansa last week, and now that chance encounter is being used in a major way. Well, it will in the future. Brienne didn’t interact with anyone besides Pod (Daniel Portman) this week. Yet that was fun in itself. We’re reminded of why Brienne is currently on her path, and we see that she has a very clear goal in mind: Get revenge for Renly. Her conversation with Pod was a nice bit of tenderness too. I like that these two are becoming a very fun pair to watch on this show. I hope we can get some Pod training sessions too.

If Brienne continues on her mission for Sansa, it can actually lead her face to face with the man who started her torment in the first place. Stannis plans to march on Winterfell to take it back from the Boltons, something that he wants Jon’s help with. That’s right folks, now the Night’s Watch has the potential to get involved in this. Despite Davos (Liam Cunningham) making some great points about what it means to protect the realm, it currently seems like Jon is fully content to stay Lord Commander. Of course, that comes with its own issues, one of which was Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter). Jon swiftly took care of this Lannister loving ass though by executing him for disobedience. A little extreme, yes, but it was clear Janos had a personal vendetta against Jon. Jon also had to show everyone that he is not a commander to be taken lightly. This is bound to rub some people the wrong way though so keep an eye on Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale).

As an aside, I find it interesting that the Wildlings are suddenly taking a backseat to what’s going on. Their great uniter was just executed at the stake. Their entire future is in jeopardy. Yet instead of having someone like Tormund talk to Jon and Stannis by saying, “Hey. We should have a voice in our future too,” the show is keeping them in the dark. I’d even forget the Wildlings were an issue if Jon didn’t bring them up as a concern. Where are they, anyway? The show makes a point to say how many there are and yet they’re just absent from the castle. Unless they’re still up beyond The Wall, which wouldn’t make sense when you consider why they are there to begin with.

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO

The stuff at King’s Landing continued to be a slow burn. Nothing particularly exciting or “holy shit!” happened. Margaery is now married to Tommen, and we quickly saw the impact that woman will have on the young queen. The seeds of strife are definitely sewn between Cersei and Margaery. I do enjoy the differences between the two queens. Margaery is going into her conflict with a bright smile and clear confidence, while Cersei is obviously frustrated and afraid. The stuff going on with the Sparrows doesn’t help either. Cersei definitely doesn’t need the High Septon (Paul Bentley) being paraded naked through King’s Landing. This ends up bringing her face to face with the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce, the ultimate “that guy”), who is quickly portrayed as a very pious man. You can already tell this will spell trouble for the very sinful Cersei. Yet nothing happened tonight though so keep waiting.

He received appropriately minimal focus, but the decision to pay attention to Qyburn (Anton Lesser) was an interesting one. Currently we have no idea what he is working on, but we can guess that it is something absolutely horrific based on the silent flailing under the sheet. Perhaps that figure will play a big role very soon.

Arya got plenty of material last night, a total necessity with the House of Black and White now in the picture. The decision to make Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) her trainer was another smart change from the source material as now we only have to familiarize ourselves with one new character: The Waif (Faye Marsay). We learned nothing about The Waif in “High Sparrow”, but it’s clear she will be integral in Arya’s training. That training already started too. Arya learned that to truly be a nobody, she must shed herself of things that Arya Stark owns. Naturally, she can get rid of everything except Needle. That sword means the world to her and watching her contemplate throwing it away was emotional. Expectedly, she wasn’t able to do it, proving that you can never take the Stark out of someone, no matter what face they wear.

Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO
Photo Credit: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO

It’s unsurprising that Benioff and Weiss chose to end with Tyrion too. The most exciting moment of his contribution is easily the episode’s best cliffhanger. What a way to bring Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) back right? The disgraced knight now has a very valuable hostage he can deliver to his queen. I do hope that this doesn’t mean Varys (Conleth Hill) will just disappear though. I love that he was involved with Tyrion’s Journey. I am, however, very excited by the decision to bring on the Red Priestess (Rila Fukushima) to talk about the Stone Men and grey scale. Makes me happy that my absolute favorite moment from A Dance With Dragons might actually happen, despite where we are already.

Things are already ramping up in “High Sparrow”. The North is quickly coalescing to become one of the more interesting narratives while King’s Landing continues to ramp up to something big. It already seems like next week’s episode will deliver on that. Arya is already on her way to becoming a Faceless Man and all the hardships that will bring. Tyrion is now Jorah’s captive, though I do hope that Varys is able to stick around some more. Another great episode, of course. Next week looks to be explosive so get ready!

Rating: 9/10


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Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.
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1 COMMENT

  1. While I totally agree that condensing the book’s Sansa / Ramsey storylines into one makes sense, I really hope it doesn’t end up as a rehash of Sansa’s betrothal to Joffrey. I can’t take watching her be tortured and abused anymore. Sure, she’s matured since those days, but Ramsey is a whole ‘notha level of sociopath. I really hope Sansa outplays him. I know some people find her annoying, weak, and a perpetual victim, but I’m a big fan and, although she’s no bad ass like her little sister, I could see her learning to harness her grace and feminine wiles as legitimate power-playing skills, ala Margaery.

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